Plant To Irrigation Capacity
The weather station near Seminole, Texas, recorded less than a half inch of rain from November 2021 to January 2022. This means that the soil is very dry without any water reserved for peanut season. We will need to depend heavily on irrigation water.
The total seasonal water requirement for optimal peanut yield is between 20 to 28 inches, which is higher than other crops typically grown in the Southwest. With dry conditions persisting, it is important to understand the realistic yield goals and plant peanut to irrigation capacity. It is better to plant fewer acres and irrigate adequately, than to plant larger acres that will be subject to limited irrigation.
If you have a choice, short-maturing peanut market types, such as Spanish and Valencia, will require less seasonal water use over runner and Virginia types. When changing, it is important to understand the differences in yield potential and management inputs (e.g., fungicides) that exist among the four market types.
Splitting the circle with other crops, such as cotton, sorghum or sesame will be a good strategy to reduce total water use per season than planting a whole circle to peanut. Typical water requirement for cotton, sorghum, and sesame are 12 to 24 inches, 20 to 22 inches and 16 to 18 inches, respectively. With increasing input costs and persistent drought conditions, detailed planning will be critically important for the 2022 season.
Rotation Sequence Is Important
As we move closer to planting, we find ourselves in a place where commodities other than peanuts have relatively strong prices, cotton and soybeans, for example. We are also coming off a really good year for peanuts, and that has affected peanut contracts in price per ton and quantity and subsequent demand for peanut acres. Peanuts are important but we need to consider other crops when prices favor a particular crop over peanuts.
In our North Carolina peanut guide, we show net returns for corn, cotton, grain sorghum, soybean, sweet potato and tobacco compared with peanuts at various realistic yield potentials, prices and input costs. We are spending around $950 per acre, fixed and variable cost, for Virginia-market type. How does that pencil out relative to other crops when the price of those is relatively high and with a much lower cost of production compared with peanuts?
When it comes to the biology of the rotation, cotton is a great crop for peanuts. Another year of cotton in a field rather than peanuts will help peanuts the next time they are grown. Soybeans aren’t the end of the world in a rotation with peanuts. In North Carolina, in any given year, we likely have 30% of our peanut land in soybeans. The key is sequence in the rotation. My suggestion is that the soybeans go right after the peanuts, and then it needs to be three or more years of cotton or corn in place before peanuts come around again.
Our work shows that peanut yields can be hard hit if soybeans are planted immediately prior to peanuts, and in many cases even when planted several years before peanuts. It depends on the pest complex, primarily soil-borne pathogens, and the specific nematode in question and their population. We also know that peanuts before soybeans doesn’t have a major impact on soybean yields.
Grain sorghum is a good alternative to corn, but sometimes we struggle to control weeds in this crop and want to avoid a buildup in weed populations going into peanuts if we can help it. Sweet potato is a good crop in rotation with peanuts, both from the perspective of the peanut crop and the sweet potato crop. While we are on high-value crops, tobacco isn’t as bad as peanuts or soybeans (before a peanut crop) but there are some issues.
At the end of the day, the economics of crops drive rotation sequence more than the biology of the crop sequence. But sequence is important, and a less than ideal sequence will eventually catch up with you if the rotation sequence — from a solid agronomy and biology standpoint associated with pest complexes — isn’t considered. The “catch up with you” is potentially lower yield caused by pests or higher production costs needed to suppress pests and protect yield.
Dig Deeper Into Variety Data
2021 brought its share of challenges, the first of which was the cool, wet start of the growing season. Continuous rains kept many of you out of the field, hindering you from starting a fungicide program at the proper time.
The other problem with the cool start was the late thrips flight, which led to heavy pressure in turn creating more Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus than normal. Many producers use a liquid in-furrow treatment for thrips in Alabama; however, nothing gives you more protection against heavy thrips pressure early season than a dry granule in furrow.
Another challenge was the late-season rains that continued into harvest, which increased leaf spot pressure and created challenges for a timely harvest. Heavy TSWV and leaf spot coupled with the difficulty of harvest resulted in a state yield of 3,400 pounds per acre.
Looking at variety selection for 2022, I know all of you have access to a ton of yield data. It is important to dig deeper in the data beyond just which variety had the highest yield. Some varieties may be at the top of a trial in one location but not in another. More than likely, there is a reason why certain varieties perform differently in different locations.
Knowing what kind of disease package a variety has helps you in deciding which cultivar to plant, where or even when to plant a particular option. Auburn, Georgia and Florida have posted all their peanut variety data to a website where a company has developed software called Medius.Re that allows you as a producer to compare varieties head-to-head or across multiple locations. This makes it easier for you to analyze the data for your state and surrounding states all together.
Looking at the variety data across Alabama last year, Georgia-18RU performed better than it has in recent years. However, Georgia-12Y and AU-NPL 17 were consistent across trials again this year because of heavy disease pressure. Although AU-NPL 17 isn’t considered a long-season variety, I recommend planting it early as opposed to late in the planting season. I have recommended mowing the top out of Georgia-12Y ahead of digging. This seems to allow the vines to start wicking the moisture away faster, allowing for easier combining and reducing the number of loose-shelled kernels. The FloRunTM ‘331’ variety has performed consistently well in the central east side of the state. Even though it is more susceptible to TSWV, there does not seem to be as much virus pressure in this area compared to the southern end of the state.
Grower Meeting Q & A
Growers came out in great numbers to hear from Extension specialists at Georgia’s county production meetings this winter. The 2022 growing season is setting up to be an interesting one with input costs, both fertilizers and chemicals, having risen dramatically compared to the past few years.
The good news is that commodity prices have increased also. The best advice I can offer growers is to ask as many questions as possible in the next few weeks.
The following are questions growers have asked during production meetings.
Q. Do I need to plant more peanuts?
A. Although growers typically choose to grow more peanuts in years when fertilizer and other input prices increase, it might be more beneficial to stay with your current rotation sequence of peanut being grown once every three years. Sticking to longer rotations can help ensure disease issues remain in check. The shorter the rotation sequence, the higher the disease pressure will potentially be.
Shorter rotations often mean more fungicide applications and an increase in need to use more effective and/or expensive ones. This is not a bad thing, necessarily, but it means you won’t have a lot of room for error.
Q. Can I still make a profit when fertilizer prices are two to three times the normal price?
A. The short answer is “Yes.” Growers can still make a profit during these tough economic times. But, and there’s often a “but,” growers need to stay the course with the recommended programs that are provided by your university specialists. These programs are tested and proven to work.
If you are approached about using a new product, ask for the university data to support the use of that product in your state. I am confident the university specialists would recommend any product if it is tested and proven to work or provides a consistent benefit for the grower. Contact your county agent for more information.
Q. What production input can I reduce or eliminate?
A. This is a question I hate to hear a grower ask. Not from the standpoint that we do not want to help, but rather it is from a standpoint where a grower is looking to cut corners in order to save a few dollars, and it could cost him several thousand dollars in reduced yield.
For peanut, there are several key inputs that make the grower money every year: lime (pH), fertilizers (phosphorus, potassium, manganese – as needed by soil test results), gypsum (Ca), boron, herbicides, fungicides and insecticides. The need for some of these depends on the situation, but all have proven to support high yields and quality. When you reduce or eliminate one of these important inputs, you are increasing the risk for lower yields and quality.
The other important fact to remember is that there are products being advertised to solve all your crop needs at a fraction of the cost. I recommend you talk to your county agent before trying anything new, especially if it has not been tested by your university specialists. PG